All That Glitters
Amidst an ever-changing landscape, perceptions of luxury are shifting as technological developments create new avenues for product generation and differentiation.
Klemens Schillinger has created a set of rings to visualise the fluctuating price of gold in previous years as part of his Element 79 project, the result of a collaboration with jewellers AE Köchert Juweliere. Other components of the collection include pendants and bracelets representing different purity percentages. What are the factors that will influence the cost of gold in the future, and what are the implications of its shifting value? How might gold sit in relation to new manufacturing processes and material innovation?
What are the implications of being able to 3-d print gold jewellery? Given that gold plays an essential role in other industries such as aerospace and medicine, how else might this technology be utilised? Lionel T Dean's 3-d printed jewellery range offers a glimpse into future possibilities, in a bid to produce viable alternatives in an increasingly saturated market. The pieces are part of the Precious project and manufactured by Cooksongold as part of a collaborative effort between the former, Delcam and three other companies.
That's one way to look at it. Fellow MAMF graduate Alison Taylor takes a different approach: her graduate project Mineral Alchemy looks at changing notions of value set in a context where mining metals and gemstones is no longer an option. Choosing to focus on alternative options, she has created two collections: Geodes, which are made from ephemeral sources such as salt and charcoal and Totems, constructed from materials that can be repeatedly renewed during a human lifespan like the tagua nut.
Metal-coating technology improvements mean that gold-plating is now less costly for manufacturers, along with a boost in quality of finishing that is drawing the interest of a few parties. Francis Bitonti recently 3-d printed a pair of gold-plated heels for United Nude, while gold-plated versions of the Warren Platner Collection and Harry Bertoia diamond chair are being made available by Knoll. These were previously produced only with chrome or nickel finishes.
Speaking of mid-century furniture, global auction records are being broken as a dining table designed by the late Peder Moos has been sold for over £600,000 by Phillips, claiming the title of the world's most expensive Nordic design piece. Just earlier this year, Marc Newson's Lockheed Lounge broke another record: with a price tag of more than £2 million it costs more than any other design object sold by a living designer to date.
More recently, Marc Newson has designed a limited edition tea service for Georg Jensen. Featuring hand-hammered silver and mammoth ivory handles, there are only 10 sets available and each cost £82,000. How does one source mammoth ivory 'responsibly'? What do these case studies tell us about how consumers perceive high-end luxury and how that could shift in the near and long-term future?